Public services are adopting digital technology, which makes life easier for Brussels residents, saving them time and money and reducing their travel. But despite these advantages, technology can also be an obstacle for the regional administrations users. This is why administrations are interested in the digital divide and taking steps to fight it. Today we are talking about digital inclusion.
Generally speaking, administrative simplification relies on vast technological solutions within the Smart City: virtual counter, proposals for new digital services, for example using open data, automation and computerisation processes. Digital tools testify to the digital transformation we are currently experiencing. They offer real advantages when it comes to reducing the administrative burden on users, but they also have their downsides.
Digital by default, which has been adopted by authorities in different European countries, runs the real risk of excluding disadvantaged groups. In 2019, 40% of Belgians have low digital skills. This figure rises to 75% for people on low incomes and with a low level of education, according to the King Baudouin Foundation’s study (in French). And yet, the digitalisation of the Region’s services is accelerating rapidly.
So how can we ensure that Brussels public services meet the needs of all their users?
Sustainable digital inclusion policy
In order to make Brussels administrations and public services as aware as possible of the need to simplify the administration while ensuring digital inclusion, easy.brussels has committed itself for the period 2020-2025 to achieving several objectives in its administrative simplification plan, the Easy Way, including:
- develop and implement a training and support strategy for administrative agents involved in simplification who are on the front line of service delivery to users.
- participate in the digital appropriation plan by ensuring that administrative procedures and processes integrate all users in a comprehensive manner.
The Digital appropriation Plan 2021-2024 of the Brussels-Capital Region is deployed by the BRIC, via the Regional Digital Inclusion Coordination, and in partnership with easy.brussels. It aims to enable all citizens of Brussels citizens to access services and tools. The plan is available in the “documents” section of this page.
Digital support structures
The Brussels administrations are choosing to develop digital services whilst maintaining traditional services. The public service is therefore accessible to all users, regardless of their skills, knowledge or financial resources. The absence of one or more of these elements regularly causes a digital divide in Brussels.
Digital Public Spaces
Support structures in the Brussels-Capital Region, such as the Digital Public Spaces (DPS), are attempting to combat digital illiteracy at its source, by offering professional support to less connected sections of the population and providing them with IT equipment. DPSs are increasingly providing assistance to users more familiar with electronic means of communications, such as freelancers, SMEs and students. Find your nearest EPN via the CABAN network.
The 1,2,3 Digit platform
1,2,3 Digit is a free platform designed to guide and train digital mediators. By offering thematic and fun educational content via the platform, mediators have the tools to reduce the digital divide and gently lead the public towards digital autonomy!
The future of public services
DPSs alone cannot bear the burden of digital inclusion. The Brussels administrations have a crucial role to play and to do so must ensure that all Brussels public service employees support the digital culture. As a result, the handling of requests from citizens and businesses can improve, not by simply redirecting users to online services, but by offering constructive support during the stages that allow them to become familiar with these digital services.
The Brussels-Capital Region wants to support the complementarity between inclusion and the digitalisation of the administration.
Training front-line actors
An open and user-centred administration requires the inclusion and participation of all publics: citizens, businesses, associations and regional and municipal civil servants.
easy.brussels is committed to training civil servants to better master digital tools, which will result in a better service to the user.
Tools and training
In order to carry out this training and support project, easy.brussels, in partnership with the ERAP (Ecole Régionale d’Administration Publique de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale), will organise training courses for local civil servants from 2022, focusing on digital tools.
In addition to these training courses, easy.brussels support materials have been created by easy.brussels and are available to you, with the aim of providing your users with the best possible support. Discover them in the “documents” section of this page and also go to the “Virtual Counter” page for more explanations on certain tools.
In November 2016, Easybrussels held its annual symposium on the theme of digital inclusion. Its purpose was to make Brussels administrations and public services more aware of the need to simplify administration whilst paying close attention to digital inclusion.
Organised in partnership with Idealic, the federal research project on digital inclusion, this symposium, called “The Brussels Digital Citizen”, featured local experts, other regions and representatives of the scientific and community worlds, who all shared their visions in a bid to reduce the digital divide. During themed workshops, some 200 participants from Brussels public bodies learned about the extent of the digital divide in Brussels, reflected on the issue and proposed solutions.
After the event, the Idealic researchers created a list of 12 recommendations for effectively fighting the digital divide in the Brussels Region. These recommendations include the huge responsibility on the DPS sector to improve the digital skills of Brussels society as a whole. This financially fragile sector cannot currently meet the growing and increasing diversified demand. To do so it requires support from a sustainable regional digital inclusion policy.